Dr. Regina Henkel
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Dr. Regina Henkel

Sustainable Clothing Made from Lyocell

The New Trend Fiber Lyocell: Everything You Need to Know about It

If you take a look at the labels and compositions of the new fashion and sports collections today, you will notice a new term there more and more often: Lyocell. Lyocell is considered a particularly sustainable textile fiber. But what is a Lyocell fiber made of and what does it have to do with sustainability?

Lyocell is now used in many collections, like this one from yoga brand Mandala.
Lyocell is now used in many collections, like this one from yoga brand Mandala.

Fibre from the Renewable Raw Material Wood

The name Lyocell does not sound like it has a natural origin, but that is deceptive. Lyocell consists of nothing other than cellulose and is obtained from naturally renewable raw materials, especially wood. Lyocell is therefore also called cellulose or regenerated fiber.
The Lyocell production process is currently regarded as the most modern process for manufacturing fibres from wood. It has been used successfully on an industrial scale for around 25 years and is particularly environmentally friendly because the cellulose can be dissolved directly here purely physically using an organic solvent and without any necessary chemical modification. Lyocell is therefore a simple and sustainable alternative to the complex chemical manufacturing processes of viscose and modal, which are also pure cellulose fibres. Lyocell is therefore also recognized by some sustainability seals - such as GOTS - as a sustainable fiber and may be added in a certain proportion.

Advantages of Lyocell

Lyocell fibres are very robust and abrasion resistant. Like viscose and modal, lyocell has a particularly soft, pleasant feel that is somewhat reminiscent of silk. This makes Lyocell particularly suitable for flowing dresses, summer T-shirts, shirts, blouses, loose trousers or thin jackets. As Lyocell is very breathable and can absorb moisture well, it has a temperature-regulating effect and is also popular in sports collections. Studies have shown, for example, that Lyocell can absorb 50 percent more moisture or sweat than cotton. At the same time, the fiber has an antibacterial effect and is known for low bacterial growth.
The good properties of Lyocell can be combined very well with other fibers, so Lyocell fibers are often added to products made of cotton or merino wool.

Lyocell fibre is usually obtained from the renewable raw material wood.
Lyocell fibre is usually obtained from the renewable raw material wood.

Lenzing: Closed Loops

Lyocell has become particularly well known in recent years because the Austrian textile manufacturer Lenzing has developed a lyocell process in which more than 99 percent of the solvent is recovered in a closed cycle and fed back into the production process again and again. Lenzing has also continuously developed the Lyocell production process over the years and steadily reduced energy consumption through continuous optimization. The process water is also reused in a closed system. These two closed cycles are the reason for the low emissions in Lenzing's Lyocell production. Lenzing's starting material is wood from sustainable forestry.

Difference between Lyocell and Tencel

In short: there is no difference between Lyocell and Tencel. Because, of course, the Lyocell fiber from Lenzing also has its own name. This name Tencel has been heard more and more frequently in recent years. Lyocell describes the fiber type and its production process, while Tencel is Lenzing's registered brand name for its Lyocell fiber.

Lyocell is produced as a continuous fibre and consists of cellulose.
Lyocell is produced as a continuous fibre and consists of cellulose.

Further Development of Lyocell: Recycling

By the way, Lenzing's tencel fibers have always evolved. There are already many different fibers for a wide range of applications - even tea bags. Lenzing also continues to develop in the area of sustainability. Today, Lenzing produces tencel fibers that consist of one third pulp from cutting residues. These scraps originate from the production of cotton clothing and, for the first time, also from used cotton textiles. By 2024, Lenzing plans to use as much as 50 percent recycled materials from waste cotton textiles in the production of Tencel, thus driving the spread of textile waste recycling. It is to become just as much a standard as paper recycling already is today.

These are the Facts about Lyocell:

  • Lyocell is a regenerated fiber that is made from cellulose.
  • It is mainly obtained from wood.
  • Lyocell can be produced in a particularly environmentally friendly way because no chemical solvents are used.
  • The best-known Lyocell fiber is called Tencel and comes from textile manufacturer Lenzing.
  • Lenzing has created almost closed cycles for its Lyocell process, which saves energy and water resources.
  • Lyocell is very robust and abrasion resistant, but still soft and flowing.
  • Lyocell has a temperature-regulating and antibacterial effect, is breathable and can absorb moisture well.
  • Lyocell is often mixed with cotton and merino wool to combine properties.
  • Recycling: The raw material wood, which has been necessary for the production of the fiber up to now, can already be replaced to some extent by cotton production residues or old cotton clothing.

 

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Dr. Regina Henkel
Author:
Dr. Regina Henkel
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